This may be hard to hear, but there’s a good chance that the coronavirus pandemic is going to go on for many more months, in spite of certain politicians prematurely claiming to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
So says one prominent political scientist, Yascha Mounk, Associate Professor of Practice at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and author of a very important Twitter thread.
Mounk lays out three distinct reasons why the end may not be in sight after new developments in the crisis emerged.
In the past weeks, I had three great hopes for how to end the nightmare:— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 28, 2020
1) Fatality rates might be much lower than we thought.
2) An effective treatment could become available soon.
3) We could put an effective test-and-trace system in place.
All three hopes now seem remote.
The first reason that Mounk’s hopes have been dashed is that high infection rates revealed by antibody tests mean that hopes for a herd immunity developing without a vaccine can only be realized without a devastating death toll.
“Based on the numbers from New York, it could take about TWO MILLION deaths across America to reach herd immunity,” he writes.
This seems like good news: If a lot more people have had COVID-19, then it’s far less deadly than we thought!— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 28, 2020
But the news is not nearly good enough: Based on the numbers from New York, it could take about TWO MILLION deaths across America to reach herd immunity.
The silver lining here is that the fatality rate for the virus might be a bit lower than was initially thought, although these numbers might not take into account COVID-19 deaths that weren’t officially recorded. Also, antibody tests have proved to be far from perfect.
But based on the data we have, trying to go back to normal is not a good idea.
“The best studies we have imply that millions may have to die in the United States for us to reach herd immunity,” Mounk says. “Until that possibility is ruled out, plans to brave the virus by going back to normal remain in the realm of the stupid or the sociopathic.”
But here's the point:— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 28, 2020
The best studies we have imply that millions may have to die in the United States for us to reach herd immunity.
Until that possibility is ruled out, plans to brave the virus by going back to normal remain in the realm of the stupid or the sociopathic.
The second reason to continue keeping your butts inside for a good long time is that scientists have yet to discover an effective treatment for COVID-19. Drugs pushed by Donald Trump have been found to be ineffective and also potentially deadly, having already killed at least a couple of people who have tried them on his advice.
Other possible treatments identified by actual medical experts have also failed to have a net positive outcome in drug trials.
Most doctors never believed that an antimalarial drug could heal COVID-19. But many help up real hope for another drug: remdesivir.— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 28, 2020
Alas, the first randomized clinical trial found that remdesivir "was not associated with clinical or virological benefits."https://t.co/1q0VSrIy9z
This is not to say that scientists won’t find an effective drug treatment for the novel coronavirus in the future. However, it may be a while.
“I remain hopeful that we may yet discover other effective treatments. And it’s imaginable that a vaccine could become available faster than experts predict,” he says. “But, for now, hopes of quickly finding a wonder drug have been dashed.”
Meanwhile, test-and-trace in the U.S. is a long way off.
3) The U.S. Isn't Anywhere Close to Test-and-Trace— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 28, 2020
It now seems less likely than ever that the United States will do what is necessary to reopen the economy without causing a second wave of deadly infections.
“Today, America has still conducted only about 5.4 million tests. According to experts, the country needs to increase its testing rate at least threefold to reopen safely.” That’s a lot of testing.
Mounk further points out that while other countries have had success in implementing nationwide testing, the U.S. has left this up to the states individually, which doesn’t work out well with an invisible, contagious virus.
Some countries now have systems in place to inform those who've been exposed and ensure that they self-isolate.— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 28, 2020
America is leaving this task to states that don't enjoy the trust or resources to implement a comprehensive system.
(Also, viruses don't, um, care about state lines.)
Mounk blames Trump for failing to focus on these problems and instead using his energy on “culture wars and quack cures.”
However, there is some good news.
There *has* been some good news in the past weeks:— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 28, 2020
* The fatality rate, though terrible, is likely lower than early estimates suggested.
* Americans have followed social-distancing guidelines to an impressive degree.
* The number of new infections and fatalities is ebbing.
Unfortunately, overall, Mounk doesn’t see a quick way out of our current mess thanks to all the failures of the Trump administration.
“COVID-19 is too deadly to let it rip through the population. An effective cure is not in sight. And the federal government seems incapable of implementing test-and-trace,” he says. “All in all, the prospects for a quick deliverance from the pandemic are more remote than ever.”
Please share this thread and my article @TheAtlantic.— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) April 28, 2020
And please do let me know 👇 if you think I've missed some big reason for optimism. (Believe me, I'd be happy to stand corrected.)
Hope you haven’t burned through all of Netflix yet.